[Weekend Briefing] Cyber power and geopolitics

By Dain Oh, The Readable
Feb. 2, 2024 10:35PM GMT+9

“Weekend Briefing” is a weekly newsletter sent to subscribers of The Readable every Friday. Our journalists select important news items from the previous week on topics ranging from privacy to policy development in cybersecurity, all to help you stay abreast of the latest breaking issues. And not only is this provided free of cost to our subscribers, but the briefing contains new content exclusive to subscribers, such as our insightful industrial reports.


Hello, this is Dain Oh reporting from South Korea. This week, four leaders responsible for national cybersecurity in the United States appeared before Congress to testify about Chinese hackers. Volt Typhoon, a hacking group associated with the Chinese government, was frequently cited during the congressional hearing as an example of China’s hacking capabilities and malicious intentions. Sylvie Truong has provided coverage on what the cybersecurity chiefs had to say, and her article is the leading story in this briefing.

Geopolitical tensions in cyberspace continue to escalate, particularly between the two Koreas, reaching unprecedented levels following South Korea’s joint cyber exercise with the U.S. Cyber Command on January 26. In response, North Korea issued a statement two days later, condemning the exercise as preparation for cyber warfare. Next week, our readers can look forward to an in-depth analysis of this issue, offering crucial details that have been overlooked in other news reports.

On Wednesday, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol issued a warning about potential attacks targeting the upcoming general election in April, which could originate from North Korea. Kuksung Nam has reported on this development. Additionally, the briefing includes articles on changes to privacy policies, a new security advisory, and insights from a Microsoft researcher. At the bottom, readers will find our annual security outlook report, published on January 31. Enjoy our stories, and we wish you a wonderful weekend!

1. FBI, CISA, NSA, and National Cyber Director testify before Congress about Chinese hackers

General Paul Nakasone, from left, the National Security Agency (NSA) director and the commander of the United States Cyber Command, Jen Easterly, Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Christopher Wray, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Harry Coker Jr., the National Cyber Director are swearing in at a hearing titled “The CCP Cyber Threat to the American Homeland and National Security,” held at the U.S. Congress in Washington D.C. on January 31. Source: The Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)

Top cyber officials of the United States testified before the U.S. Congress in Washington D.C. on January 31 about the most pressing threats posed by Chinese hackers to U.S. critical infrastructure and American citizens.

Speakers at the hearing included the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Director Jen Easterly, General Paul Nakasone, who serves concurrently as the National Security Agency (NSA) director and the commander of U.S. Cyber Command, and National Cyber Director Harry Coker Jr.

In his opening statement, Director Wray said, “China’s hackers are positioning on American infrastructure in preparation to wreak havoc and cause real-world harm to American citizens and communities, if or when China decides the time has come to strike.” According to the FBI, China is targeting American critical infrastructure for the “sole purpose of disabling and destroying critical infrastructure in the event of a conflict—a conflict over Taiwan for example.” READ MORE

2. South Korean President warns of North Korea’s interference in April election

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol is delivering his remarks during the annual central integrated defense council meeting held on January 31. Source: Office of the President

On Wednesday, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol acknowledged awareness of and expressed preparedness for North Korea’s efforts to disrupt the general election scheduled for April.

At the annual Central Integrated Defense Council meeting, President Yoon highlighted the persistent attempts by the North Korean government to undermine South Korea’s democracy over the past seven decades. He pointed out that these efforts were particularly pronounced in years when South Korea was dealing with significant political issues. The meeting, which brought together over 170 officials from various sectors including the intelligence agency, military, and police, served as a platform for these discussions. This annual defense meeting plays a crucial role in addressing and strategizing against such provocations and influence operations. READ MORE

3. South Korea announces stringent measures against privacy problems in personalized advertising

Designed by Sangseon Kim, The Readable

The Personal Information Protection Commission (PIPC) of South Korea, in a briefing held on Wednesday, announced detailed policy plans specifying that users’ behavioral information—data related to internet activity—must be processed in a manner that does not reveal the identity of individual users.

The PIPC emphasized that advertisers should observe a strict distinction between behavioral information and personal data. While acknowledging that behavioral advertising—which targets specific social groups based on their internet activities—enhances the efficiency of promotions, the PIPC also raised concerns about the potential misuse of personal data. The classification of users into groups based on online behavior necessitates careful handling of individuals’ information. READ MORE

4. South Korea introduces new committee on cross-border data flow

Designed by Sangseon Kim, The Readable

South Korea is seeking to advance its governance over data flow as the country’s privacy agency launches an expert committee dedicated to transmitting data across borders.

On January 30, the Personal Information Protection Commission (PIPC) held an inauguration ceremony and announced the formation of the Expert Committee for Cross-border Transfer. The committee is comprised of twelve delegates, including one of the commissioners of the PIPC, representing diverse fields such as academics, law, industry, and civic groups. READ MORE

5. Security advisory issued amidst hacking spree in South Korea

Designed by Areum Hwang, The Readable

The Korea Internet & Security Agency (KISA) has called on companies to conduct thorough inspections and strengthen their security measures in response to the recent surge in cyberattacks. In a security advisory released on Tuesday, the agency advised companies to improve their information security by implementing countermeasures to prevent breaches.

The advisory highlights that unidentified hackers have engaged in malicious activities aimed at defacing websites, stealing sensitive information, and executing distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks within South Korea. Last month, these attackers launched DDoS assaults on South Korea-based cybersecurity and media companies and issued threats of further attacks. READ MORE

6. [Interview] “The world should unite to improve security,” says Microsoft senior researcher

Kim Hye-seon, Microsoft Defender for Endpoint Research team senior researcher. Photo by Hongeun Im, The Readable. Designed by Areum Hwang, The Readable

As cyberattacks grow sophisticated beyond the point where cyberdefense companies working independently will be less and less able to defend against them, the need for collaboration within the field is more important than ever.

“Security companies might be competitors in the same industry, but for security to advance overall worldwide, they need to pool their resources and work together toward achieving a common goal,” Microsoft senior security researcher Kim Hye-seon said during an interview with The Readable. The interview took place on January 26 during the researcher’s brief visit to Hanyang University in South Korea to participate in an educational program. READ MORE

7. [Report] Security outlook 2024: AI, Election, the Paris Olympics

The Readable reviewed more than 30 reports of cybersecurity predictions, published by vendors and public institutions, and pared them down to five topics: Artificial intelligence, election security, the Paris Olympics, persistent threats, and cyber insurance. Our reporters summarized each topic in approximately 300 words, based on the analysis provided by the original reports. The sources that were referenced can be found at the end of each topic, marked with a hashtag. There is also a full list of reports at the end of the articles. READ MORE

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The cover image of this article was designed by Sangseon Kim. This article was copyedited by Arthur Gregory Willers.


Dain Oh is a distinguished journalist based in South Korea, recognized for her exceptional contributions to the field. As the founder and editor-in-chief of The Readable, she has demonstrated her expertise in leading media outlets to success. Prior to establishing The Readable, Dain was a journalist for The Electronic Times, a prestigious IT newspaper in Korea. During her tenure, she extensively covered the cybersecurity industry, delivering groundbreaking reports. Her work included exclusive stories, such as the revelation of incident response information sharing by the National Intelligence Service. These accomplishments led to her receiving the Journalist of the Year Award in 2021 by the Korea Institute of Information Security and Cryptology, a well-deserved accolade bestowed upon her through a unanimous decision. Dain has been invited to speak at several global conferences, including the APEC Women in STEM Principles and Actions, which was funded by the U.S. State Department. Additionally, she is an active member of the Asian American Journalists Association, further exhibiting her commitment to journalism.